I was just reading a report in the Chicago Tribune that talks about baseball perhaps changing the tie-breaking game procedure which determines the home team by the flip of a coin. Owners want to determine the home team by head-to-head record during the season. This in part stems from this years tie-breaking game between the Twins and the White Sox which had the Sox as the home team as the result of a coin-flip despite the Twins having won the season series against the Sox, 10-8. Nice job thinking outside the box, boys! Always good to stay ahead of the curve.
That brings me to another issue that MLB just can't seem to figure out. Instant Replay. We have obviously entered an age that allows us to utlize modern technology. The other sports have long figured out how to effectively use instant replay. Finally this year MLB jumped in with a limited use of replay, only for disputed home run calls. What? There are so many other ways that replay could be utilized in baseball.
Close plays at first base that the umpire misses. Flash back to the World Series and the great play Jamie Moyer made on a bunt sprawled out and flipping the ball to his first baseman. Close, but the runner was ruled safe. Replays showed that the runner was out. That runner did score, but it didnt affect the outcome of the game. But what if it had. Just as it did back in the 1985 World Series. Anybody remember Don Denkinger?
Yes, he was the umpire in the Cardinals-Royals World Series who's wrong call at first base cost the Cardinals game three and perhaps the World Series.
Jorge Orta's Royals were trailing 3 games to 2 in the Series and 1-0 on the scoreboard when he led off the bottom of the ninth with a ground ball to Cardinal first baseman Jack Clark, who flipped the ball to Cardinal pitcher Todd Worrell covering first. First base umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe, but television replays later showed that Worrell had beaten him to the base. Steve Balboni followed with a single to left, moving Orta to 2B. Jim Sundberg's sacrifice bunt, instead of moving up the runners, ended up in a force out at third. With Hal McRae batting next, Cardinals' catcher Darrell Porter, who had played four seasons with the Royals, allowed a passed ball, and both Kansas City runners moved up. McRae was intentionally walked to load the bases. Dane Iorg would then pinch hit for Dan Quisenberry, and his single to right field drove in two runs giving Kansas City a 2-1 win.
The outcome shifted momentum to the Royals, and in game seven of the Series the next night, Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen pitched an 11-0 shutout.
Baseball has the ability to keep that from ever happening again. With the high stakes of the game today, why wouldn't you want to make sure you could avoid a mistake costing a team a game.
It's not just the plays at first that replay could assist with, it's at all the bases including plays at the plate. It also could help determine if a player made a catch or he trapped the ball. It would not be used for balls and strikes. It would not be used for fair or foul determinations except on homerun calls. The problem with fair or foul on plays other than a homerun relate much like when an NFL referee blows his whistle, the play is automatically dead (ask the Chargers about this rule). When a ball is hit down the line, and the umpire calls it foul, he throws his arms up and everyone stops as the play is dead.
Instant Replay should be used to the extent that it's available. The NFL does a great job with replay. Obviously you would have to figure out the rules for using replay but that shouldnt be too diffcult. Right now for replays on homeruns, it is left up to the umpire crew chief to decide if a replay is warranted and then he reviews it and makes a call. You could leave all replay eligible calls that way, at the discretion of the crew chief.
Perhaps there is a way to institute a policy like the NFL has that gives each time 2 challenges per game, and penazlizes the challenging team if the call is not overturned. Obviously baseball does not utilize time outs, so another penalty would have to be devised. Maybe you penalize the challenging team when the call is not overturned with an automatic out to be enforced at the time they are batting, or the next inning they bat if they are in the field at the time of the challenge. Give each team two challenges per game to use. Maybe even limit it to one challenge per team.
It's time for baseball to show why it was the National Pastime amd not why it is past it's time.